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CHICAGO - On Thursday, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer faced the Big Ten media for the first time as the Buckeyes' head coach. On Friday, it was his players turn.
The second day of the Big Ten Media Kickoff Luncheon consisted of players and coaches from all 12 Big Ten teams meeting with members of the media in downtown Chicago, Ill. Representing the Buckeyes were seniors John Simon, Zach Boren, and Etienne Sabino, who discussed subjects ranging from their first seven months of playing for Meyer to their final game of the 2012 season.
After Ohio State hired Meyer following a 6-7 season in 2011, much of the focus during Big Ten media day focused on how the Buckeyes have responded to having the two-time national champion at the helm of their program. Boren said that the impact that his new coach has had on the program has been unmistakable.
"Coach Meyer expects a lot out of us. He puts a lot of pressure on us to be the best players that we can possibly be," Boren said. "That pressure's good, because it makes you want to go out and work every day and be the best player you can possibly be. Obviously, that will show up on the field come fall."
Playing for his third head coach in as many years, Simon was unsure of what to expect when Meyer was hired at the November 2011. After being a part of his program for less than a season now, however, it's clear that Simon has bought in to what Meyer's selling.
"I knew that he was a great coach and with the track record that he had, we were fortunate to have him hired as the coach," Simon said. "I really didn't get to know him until he came in and started opening up to us. Once people started buying into the system, he really began to open up, and you knew that he was a true Buckeye.
Camping For Character
Yesterday, Meyer announced that the Buckeyes would kickoff their first fall camp under his watch on Friday, Aug. 3. A four-year starter at fullback, Boren is aware of the impact that the fall camp period has on a team.
"Camp is when you build your personality as a team. Once we get out of camp, we'll know more about this team's personality and see how we're going to be," Boren said. "I can tell that we're hungry because of the offseason we've had and how hard guys have been working."
While camp is where a team may build its character in camp, it doesn't learn everything it needs to know about itself in July, which is a lesson that Boren learned the hard way a year ago.
"Coming out of a camp last year, I thought we would be alright. Obviously, there were some holes that we needed to fill with the suspended guys and stuff like that, and that was hard. But coming out of camp last year, I felt pretty positive," Boren said. "That's the scary thing."
Although the Buckeyes are already expecting to bounce back from what was a subpar season on the defensive side of the ball in 2011, it could see a huge boost should fifth-year defensive end Nathan Williams make a full recovery from a knee arthroscopic and microfracture knee surgery. One of Williams' few classmates left on the roster, Sabino said that seeing the 6-foot-3, 249-pound end's recovery efforts has been in inspiring.
"You see Nate working out, working to get himself better everyday," Sabino said. "He's in there with us, he's in there before us, he's in there after us. His work ethic to get back on the field has been through the roof."
Simon said that he's confident that Williams will be lining up on the opposite side of him on the defensive line come fall.
"I see Nate every day and he's working extremely hard, a couple hours a day every day in that rehab room to get back as fast as he can, Simon said. "He'll be back very soon, and we're looking forward to it."
One thing that has changed since the media last had a chance to speak with the Buckeyes is that all of the 2012 recruiting class is now on campus. The Ohio State seniors have been especially impressed with this year's class, with Simon singling out defensive end Noah Spence as a player who has joined him for 6 a.m. workouts.
"When they come and work out with us, they're so enthusiastic about football," Simon said. "They're ready for college football. They want to take that next step and we're watching a lot of film with the young guys, trying to teach them little things here and there. As seniors on the d-line, myself and Garrett Goebel, I think we've done an alright job."
Like Simon, Sabino has also been impressed by the freshmen in his position group, although he mentioned that it's hard to single out any of the new OSU linebackers just yet.
"It's hard to say that one jumps out at me. I think they all bring something different to the table," Sabino said. "I think the potential in that room is, in my opinion, it may be better than it's ever been. But potential can only take you so far."
That School Up North
With players and coaches from all of the Big Ten schools in just one room, it was only natural that Ohio State players were asked about their rivals at Michigan, and vice-versa. And if the players' responses to such questions are any indication, the addition of Meyer to OSU has done nothing been add fuel to the rivalry's fire.
"You get fired up for that game every year, and it's always the last game on your schedule," Simon said. "When you play Michigan, it's always going to be a dog fight for 60-plus minutes, and this year we're looking forward to the challenge."
Two of the current faces of the rivalry- Meyer and Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson- have a preexisting relationship due to Meyer's attempt at recruiting the Deerfield Beach, Fla. native while serving as the head coach at Florida.
"I almost committed to him, so what do you think?" Robinson said when asked of his impressions of Meyer. "He's alright."
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